Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Dance Band on the Titanic

And the rats continue to climb down the mooring lines and scamper away from the foundering SS Bush.

Karen Hughes, one the last of the president's Texas inner circle, is leaving her State Department post, in which she struggled trying to boost America's image overseas.

Trying to boost America's image overseas, specifically in the Middle East? Oh, yeah, sign me up for that job. Talk about your proverbial lost causes, somebody must have slipped Hughes a cup of the Halliburton Cool-Aid a while back. Looks like it's wearing off.

Once seen by Bush as the way to spread "the universal principle of human liberty," the outreach campaign quickly began to founder in a rising anti-American tide. A key 2007 survey showed a continued decline in U.S. standing among other countries.

Hughes was charged with spreading Bush's message of "the universal principle of human liberty?" Um, OK [insert dubious expression here]. How exactly does that work? "Well see here, Mohummed, the US Government policies of Rendition and Torture are about Liberty! The more of you towelheads we water-board at Gitmo, the more freedom you get! It's a win/win. What?"

"I feel that I have done what Secretary Rice and President Bush have asked of me by transforming public diplomacy and making it a national security issue," [Hughes] said.

Making diplomacy a national security issue. Exactly, because, you know, what isn't a matter of national security these days?

Let me put on my old Intelligence Analyst hat here (that's the one with the flashing light on top, and the twin beer holders on either side). How? How do we improve America's image overseas? And while we're at it, on this side of the sea as well? Well, here's how I see it:

Number 1: Establish some basic goals, i.e. a Mission Statement for you TQL types. Remember what this whole mess was supposed to be about, i.e. 911, and to a lesser extent the years of terrorist attacks on US interests that preceded that event. This 'War on Terrorism' is supposed to be about hunting down and destroying the entities responsible for those attacks, and to reduce the likelihood of such attacks in the future.

Number 2: Admit we screwed the pooch. The first step is admitting you have a problem, any alcoholic can tell you that; if I remember correctly GWB has had drug/alcohol counseling - he should be familiar with this step. We have a problem, we attacked the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, and it just keeps getting worse. On September 12th, 2001, the entire world was with us, including many Muslim nations, who were appalled by the 911 attacks (I was in the Middle East. Believe me, many Arabs were appalled - and deeply afraid we would blame them). We were filled with righteous anger. We prepared for war. GWB told us Saddam Hussein was responsible, fine and dandy, let's go kill the bastard. Except that a number of people weren't convinced, say like France, like Germany. Despise the French or not, France is America's oldest friend. If not for the French blockade of the British Fleet during the Revolutionary War, the United States might not exist. And it was a German (Prussian/Austrian actually), who at Valley Forge, taught George Washington's ragged and weary Continental Army how to fight. And like old friends, both countries (and many others, both old friends and new) counseled America to calm down, breath deep, think clearly in those grim days after 911. Of course we didn't listen, and now six years later we are too embarrassed to admit to our friends that we should have listened. That, in our rage, we made a mistake. We're off target and out of bounds. We have lost sight of our true goals. We have lost friends. And we have lost the support of the world. Those that masterminded 911 and many of the previous attacks are still free and untouched. And nobody, at home or abroad, thinks that this war is about 911 - not any more.

Number 3: Apologize. The President of the United States must stand up and apologize to the American people for this debacle, for the lies, the deceit, the arrogance, for poor leadership, for utter lack of vision, and for turning 'Patriotism' into a curse. The President should apologize to the rest of the world for not listening when he should have, for making decisions in rage and fear. And he should apologize to the Iraqi people. That's right, apologize to the Iraqi people.
Don't get me wrong, I fought in Iraq, and I was proud to do so. Because I thought I was doing the right thing - just as hundreds of thousands of those in uniform, both American and otherwise, thought they were doing the right thing. But we were not. And the man who sent us needs to apologize for his failed judgment and for betraying our trust. Then, if he has any shred of honor at all, he should accept responsibility for his actions and resign. And take his Vice President and cabinet with him.

Number 4: Renounce torture, forcefully and with sincerity. Renounce unconstitutional policies, forcefully and with demonstrated sincerity. The President (or new President as the case may be) needs to issue an Executive Order immediately suspending torture, rendition, extraordinary means, and any other euphemism for the violation of human rights. Congress needs to follow that up with an ironclad law. American will not now, or ever, tolerate or allow to exist denial of fundamental human rights within her borders or elsewhere within her interests. Period, no exceptions. International human rights organizations will be given full access to detention facilities and America will treat all prisoners strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, again period, no exceptions. America is a nation of constitutional law, any and all violations of those principles will be terminated immediately, including warrantless wiretapping, warrantless searches of property and persons, secret lists of America citizens to which those suspected have no appeal, and any other policy that violates the founding principles of the US Constitution.

Number 5: Make it right. Dump the stupid platitudes and catch phrases, i.e. "We'll stand down when they stand up." Platitudes mean exactly jack shit. Actions speak much louder than words, especially to Arabs. Start by terminating the contracts of every 'security firm' currently under employment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hold those mercenaries responsible for their actions, turning them over to Iraq or Afghan courts if necessary. Their actions have resulted in the deaths of children and innocents, and the destruction of millions in property - they must be held accountable. Replace mercenaries with American troops under strict discipline (or coalition forces if possible). Troops must be under the control of their officers at all times, and those officers will be held accountable for their troops' actions in accordance with the UCMJ. No CIA, NSA, FBI or other intelligence organization, agent, or officer will ever have control of US Military Forces, for any reason. Take the billions recouped from the terminated mercenary contracts and plow it into schools, hospitals, power plants, infrastructure, and yes, Mosques. Use Middle Eastern contractors, labor, and companies. No American corporation should get rich rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, otherwise there is no economic incentive to end this war. Assign a 'Reconstruction Comptroller' (NOT a 'Czar', in fact, never use the word 'Czar' again, ever) who is personally responsible to the American people for every dime spent in the rebuilding effort. And finally, Americans allowed their leaders to get the country into this mess, and Americans should have to carry some of the responsibility for making it right. Sacrifice is required, Americans can no longer go sheep like about their daily lives, we all have a moral obligation to assist in correcting the mistakes of our leaders. Write your congressman. Write you Senator. Hold them accountable for their actions. Educate yourselves and vote for those who will do the right thing, even if they aren't a member of your political party. Conserve energy. Buy smaller cars. Quit bitching about how this war is about oil, and reduce the amount of oil you use. Give money to human rights organizations. Something, do anything, besides putting one of those yellow ribbon magnets on your monster SUV.

Bush wants to improve America's image abroad? He's welcome to use the above. He can even call it a 'roadmap' if he wants to.


  1. Suggested Addendum to Number 5:

    Impose a "war tax" on all Americans to pay for the debacle, including corporations and non-profits. No one will be exempt, and it should be a flat tax - some fraction of a percent of earnings. Do not rescind the tax until we're out of Iraq. For good.

    See, Jim, I'm just as idealistic and Pollyannaish as you. Must be contagious.

  2. Agreed. Though I think that the tax should be tied to the gas pump, if Americans want to get of the Middle East, they should put their money where their rhetoric is.

  3. they should put their money where their rhetoric is.

    Surely you jest. That's not The American Way.


    I own some Exxon-Mobil stock. I also own some Distributed Energy Systems stock. I drive a very small SUV (CRV). I also work from home full-time. It's never as simple as it seems...

  4. And I drive a GMC truck. But, like you I don't drive it every day. It also gets 19 miles a gallon, which is pretty good for a truck. My wife drives the much more fuel efficient jeep (or the Mustang in the summers) into Anchorage every day.

    I include myself in the statements I made in the post. And for the record, I get the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend each year, which ultimately comes from oil revenue. You don't see me turning that down. But then I don't hold the Oil Companies as evil villains (except were Exxon hasn't paid the fine for the Valdez spill yet, bastards), oil companies only provide what Americans demand. They get rich doing it, true, but that's neither illegal nor immoral. It's not the oil companies' fault, it's our own dammed fault for not demanding a sane and reasonable national energy policy, that includes a broad variety of sustainable domestic solutions. An aggressive energy policy, that didn't involve pumping trillions of dollars into the middle east, along with sincere and generous humanitarian support, would do more to curb terrorism than this idiotic war will ever do.

  5. I understand and appreciate your point. I just don't want to feel like a damn hypocrite when I'm shaking my fists at the Insane Clown Posse that runs our energy and foreign policies. Hypocriy does not become me.

  6. Believe me, Janiece, I understand. Some of my comments come dangerously close to hypocrisy for myself. One of the reasons I post my opinions is that people like you keep me honest. If I put the words out where people can read them, then I have think carefully about what I'm saying and be honest with myself. I don't always succeed, but I'm working on it - which at least is more than our leaders can say. So that's something anyway.

  7. Um, Jim? Can I suggest that you use a higher benchmark for consistancy and honesty than the current administration? Seriously, dude. Don't make me use scabby comparisons here.

  8. Well, jeez, Janiece, every scale has to have a rock bottom minimum.


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